“Tourism as a seal of environmental sustainability”

“The course of tourism every year depends both on our preparation and on what happens abroad  in the political and economic level” George Drakopoulos Special Advisor to the Secretary General of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Member of the European Economic and Social Committee clarified in an interview to “In-On” magazine.
Question: Tell us about Greek tourism in the years 2014-2015?
Answer: The course of tourism every year depends both on our preparation and on what happens abroad in the political and economic level.
Greek efforts should focus on four (4) levels:
1. The constitutional protection of our Tourism in the sense of recognizing the importance of the economic and social development of the country. This means that the design of the governmental program should take tourism into account and coordinate the actions of the ministries which are involved directly or indirectly in tourism economy. For instance, since unemployment is the main problem of the country, tourism can provide relatively quick jobs especially to the young people giving priority to development planning.
2. Improving our tourist offers in terms of specific and general infrastructure. Do we improve our airports every year, our road network? Have we solved the issue of cleanliness? Do we offer the best value for money?
3. The administration of the international tourist demand. This requires continuous study and monitoring of the markets and the long run variables that influence travel behavior. Therefore, this presupposes relative scientific support; a factor that remains a timeless prerequisite for Greek tourism.
4. Continuous improvement of tourism education and training. The human factor makes the greatest difference in the tourist experience.  The serious problems that our country faces in the field of education especially in the higher level unfortunately afflict tourism as well.
Now let us see this year. Arrivals are expected to increase as a result of the following factors: a) we improved a little bit value for money (even though in a wrong and non sustainable way which was price reduction, b) we are favored by the political instability in the wider eastern Mediterranean, mainly in Egypt and probably in Turkey, c)  we have greatly improved visa issue in Russia, the incoming flow of tourists, however, will definitely be influenced by the devaluation of the ruble and the probable situations in Crimea.
In any case, this year can be considered successful only if the per capita spending of tourists increases and more importantly if employment increases.
Question: What is the role of the World Tourism Organization?
Answer: The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of a responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
As a leading international organization in the field of Tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driving force for economic growth, without excluding growth and environmental sustainability, providing guidance and support to polices so as to support knowledge and tourism to the world.
UNWTO encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics on Tourism so as to maximize the socio-economic contribution of tourism, however, minimizing the possible negative impacts. Moreover, it is committed to the promotion of tourism as a vehicle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Goals (MDGs), which aim at reducing poverty and the promotion of sustainable development.
UNWTO produces market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism polices and means, promotes tourism education and training and also works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries all over the globe.
UNWTO includes 156 countries, 6 associate members and more than 400 Affiliate Members that represent the private sector, educational institutions, the associations and the local tourism authorities.
Over the decades, tourism has experienced continual growth and a deepen diversification so as to become one of the fastest growing fields in world economy. Modern Tourism is tightly connected with growth and includes a growing number of new destinations. These trends have turned tourism to a basic drive force for socio-economic progress.
Nowadays, the amount of businesses that deal with tourism equals or surpasses that of oil exports, food or cars. Tourism has become one of the greatest players in international trade, which constitutes one of the biggest sources of income for many developing countries. This increase is consistent with an increasing diversification and competition among destinations.
The contribution of tourism to financial prosperity depends on the quality and revenue of tourist offer.
UNWTO assists destinations within a sustainable framework in increasingly complex national and international marketς.
The story of UNWTO follows:
– The First International Conference of National Tourism Organizations which was held in London decides to establish a new International non-governmental organization in order to replace the International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda Organizations (IUOTPO), founded in 1934.
– The first Constituent Assembly of the International Union of Official Travel Associations (IUOTO) was realized in Hague. The temporary establishment of IUOTO was in London.
– Creation of the European Travel Commission (ETC), the first Regional Committee within IUOTO. Those for Africa (1949), Middle East (1951), Central Asia (1956) and America (1957) followed.
– IUOTO holds a consultative status for the United Nations.
– IUOTO headquarters are moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where  remained till 1975.
– IUOTO takes part in the United Nations Conference on Customs Formalities related to the temperately importation of private road vehicles as well as Tourism held in New York. Two basic multilateral mechanisms were adopted to facilitate business travels and promote Tourism.
– Robert Lonati (France) becomes the first IUOTO Secretary General and this duty will extend till 1974.
– Following an initiative by IUOTO, the United Nations Conference on Tourism and International Travel meets in Rome. The conference adopts a series of recommendations regarding the definition of the terms “visitor” and “tourist” as far as international statistics are concerned. Also, the simplification of the formalities of international travel and a general resolution on tourism development including technical cooperation, free movement and no discrimination were issues dealt.
– IUOTO actively participates in the proceedings of the International Conference in order to facilitate travel and maritime traffic organized by the International Maritime Organization (ΙΜΟ) in London. The Conference adopted the Convention regarding the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic.
– The 79th session of the Executive Council of IUOTO in Madrid approved a proposal to alter the legal norms of the Union and creates a working group in order to study the implications as well as the consequences of this change.
– The United Nations initiated by IUOTO, declared the year 1967 as the International Year of Tourism, under the slogan “Tourism, Passport to Piece”.
– The Intergovernmental Conference in Sofia (Bulgaria) and the Press of the General Assembly of the United Nations so as to establish an Intergovernmental organization for independent Tourism.
– On September 27th, the IUOTO Special General Meeting in Mexico City approves the constitution of the World Tourism Organization (WTO). Since 1980 onwards, this day should be celebrated as “World Tourism Day”.
– The first General Assembly of WTO is held in May in Madrid, after an invitation by the Spanish government.  Robert Lonati is elected as the first WTO Secretary General and the Assembly decides to establish its headquarters in Madrid.

– The General Secretariat of WTO was established in Madrid on January 1st.
– An agreement was signed for the WTO in order to become an implementing body of the Development Program of the United Nations (UNDP) conducting, therefore, technical cooperation with the governments.
– The World Tourism Conference held in Manila (Philippines) adopts the Manila Declaration on World Tourism.
-The World Tourism Conference in Acapulco (Mexico) approves the Acapulco document.
-The VI WTO General Assembly was held in Sofia (Bulgaria), approved the bill of Tourism Rights and Tourism Code.
– Willibald Pahr (Austria) was elected as the WTO General Secretary.
– Inter parliamentary Conference on Tourism, which was jointly organized by the Inter Parliamentarian Union adopt the Hague Declaration on Tourism.
– VIII WTO General Assembly, Paris (France).
– Antonio Enríquez Savignac (Mexico) was elected as the new WTO Secretary General.
– International Conference on Travel and Tourism Statistics in Ottawa (Canada) adopts a resolution that determines the statistical needs of tourism industry.
– WTO IX General Assembly held in Buenos Aires (Argentina) approves the suggestions of the Ottawa Conference and adopts “the recommended measures for Security in Tourism” and the “Creation of Tourism opportunities for handicapped people in the nineties”.
– WTO participates in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro   (Brazil), where «Agenda 21» is created.
– X WTO General Assembly held in Bali (Indonesia), Antonio Enríquez Savignac (Mexico) was reelected Secretary General. The Statistical Commission of the United Nations approves the recommendations of Ottawa and adopts the Standard International Classification of Tourism Activities (SICTA).
– Joint meeting between WTO and UNESCO on the Silk Road held in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) approves the Declaration of Samarkand in Silk Road Tourism.
– Accra Declaration on WTO-UNESCO cultural program “The Slave Route” in Accra (Ghana).
– I WTO Forum on Parliaments and Local Authorities: Tourism Policy-Makers, held in Cadiz (Spain), which emphasizes on the significance of cooperation between local, regional and national authorities.
– WTO, WTCC and the Earth Council introduced Agenda 21 for the Tourism Industry following the Rio Conference.
– II WTO Forum on Parliaments and Local Authorities: Tourism Policy-Makers held in Bali (Indonesia) and adopts the Bali Declaration on Tourism.
– XII WTO General Assembly in Constantinople (Turkey) adopts a White Paper in order to define a WTO strategy so as to face the challenges of the 21st century. Francesco Frangialli (France) was the new WTO Secretary General.
– The Foundation WTO. THEMIS was created in Andorra and promotes quality and efficiency in Tourism education and training.
– The World Summit which focused on measuring the economic impact on Tourism was held in Nice (France) and was approved by the Tourism Satellite Account.
– WTO XIII General Assembly in Santiago (Chile) adopts the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.
– The Statistical Commission of the United Nations approves the International standards which are contained in the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA).
– WTO Third Forum on Parliaments and Local Authorities: Tourism Policy-Makers, in Rio DI Janeiro (Brazil).
– First World Conference on Sport and Tourism, organized jointly by WTO and the International Olympic Committee, Barcelona (Spain).
– Conference on Tourism Satellites Accounts in Vancouver (Canada), aiming to the promotion of the use of Tourism Accounts.
– XIV WTO General Assembly held jointly in Seoul (Republic of Korea) and Osaka (Japan), adopts the Seoul Declaration for Peace and Tourism and the Osaka Declaration for the new millennium. Francesco Frangialli (France) was reelected Secretary General.
– The Convention calls for the examination of the possibility of altering WTO to a specialized UN agency.
– 2002 was declared as the International Year of Ecotourism.
– Quebec (Canada) holds the World Summit of Ecotourism, which adopts the Declaration of Quebec on ecotourism.
– WTO takes part in the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa), during which the program “Sustainable Tourism – Elimination of Poverty” was presented (ST-EP).The final declaration of the summit includes a direct reference to the sustainable tourism development.
– WTO IV Forum for the Parliaments and the Local Authorities: Tourism Policy –Makers, held in Panama City.
– WTO Strategy on Crisis Management adopted in ITB Berlin (Germany).
– First International Conference on climate change and Tourism, Djerba (Tunisia).
– WTO XV General Assembly, in Beijing (China), approves the composition of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics and unanimously supports the sustainable tourism program – elimination of poverty (ST-EP).
– The Assembly approves the conversion of WTO into a specialized agency of the United Nations in its resolution 453 (XV). This alteration was validated at the General Assembly of the United Nations with the resolution A/RES/58/232.
– The first International Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM) was organized by WTO in Madrid during FITUR.
– The World Tourism Ethics Commission is the implementing agency that promoted the Global Code of Ethics (adopted in1999) and held its first meeting in Rome (Italy).

– After the Asian tsunami disaster in December 2004, the UNWTO Secretary General called an emergency meeting of the UNWTO Executive Council to adopt the Action Plan of Phuket.
– UNWTO Conference on “Tourism Satellite Account (TSA): Understanding Tourism and designing strategies” in Iguazu, organized jointly by the government of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
– Applying the agreement that was signed between UNWTO and the government of Korea in 2004, the official establishment of the Foundation of UNWTO ST-EP opens in Seoul.
– XVI UNWTO General Assembly held in Dakar (Senegal), confirms the leading role UNWTO can play so as to eradicate poverty through sustainable tourism development. Francesco Frangialli (France) was reelected for a third time as Secretary General.
– The General Assembly approves the adoption of UNWTO initially in English and Russian ЮНВТО.
– XXX anniversary of UNWTO in Madrid.
– Chaired by Kofi Annan, Secretary General, the Managing Board   of the United Nations holds its first meeting at UNWTO headquarters.
– First International Conference on Tourism and Handicrafts, Tehran (Islamic Republic of Iran).
– Fifth International Forum for Members of the Parliament and Local Authorities, Hammamet (Tunisia.)
– Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, Davos (Switzerland). It approved the Davos Declaration, which was adopted by the Ministerial London Summit on Tourism and Climate change.
– First International Conference on Tourism, Religions and Dialogues of Cultures, Cordova (Spain)
– The XVII session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, approves the Declaration of Davos and encourages UNWTO to deal with the same answer to one of the biggest challenges of our time
– UNWTO and other UN organizations present the global criteria related to Sustainable Tourism at the World Conservation Congress, Barcelona (Spain)
– The 84th Session of the UNWTO Executive Council foresees the Tourism Resilience Committee (TRC) in order to deal with the economic recession, Madrid (Spain)
– UNWTO launches an awareness campaign titled “Protect the children from exploitation and Tourism”
– It launched a permanent Secretarial of the World Commission on the Ethics of Tourism in Rome (Italy)
– Responding to the global financial crisis the UNWTO map for its recovery is developed demonstrating the way tourism can contribute to economic recovery and long term transformation to Green Economy
– XVIII Session of the General Assembly of UNWTO, in Astana (Kazakhstan), agrees with the map for economic recovery as a way to include tourism in the economic packages of support. It appoints Taleb Rifai (Jordan) as UNWTO Secretary General for the period 2010-2013
– UNWTO and the host World Travel and Tourism Council held a side event at COP-15 negotiations that show how imperative the commitment of Tourism Industry should be on the climate, Copenhagen (Denmark)
– First T.20 Ministers’ meeting underlines the contribution of Tourism to global economic recovery and the long term «green» transformation

Curriculum Vitae
George Drakopoulos is today Special Advisor of to the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and member of the European Economic and Social Committee. He has served as the President of the Affiliate Members of UNWTO, General Manager of SETE (1997-2014) and Project Manager of SETE (1994-1997).
He has given talks and presentations in more than 280 national and international conferences. Additionally, he has produced 38 studies / publications and 650 articles on Tourism.
He holds an MSc in Tourism Studies from the University of Surrey, UK. He also studied Tourism Management at the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) in Athens and has been trained in Hotel Management in Glion, CH.
He specializes in lobbying for Tourism as well as the cooperation of Public and Private Sector for tourism development.

Source of publication 22th issue In-On

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